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Vista Unified looking for ‘creative’ solutions to combat falling grades

VISTA — Schools around the region are being hammered by a surge of failing grades.

During its Nov. 12 meeting, the Vista Unified School District Board of Education discussed its massive rise in students earning a D or F letter grade.

According to data disclosed by the VUSD, secondary program students with 50% or more F’s is at 20.7%, an increase of 430% compared to the same time in 2019-20. More than 2,000 high school students have at least one D grade, while more than 6,000 F grades have been recorded.

As for the two models deployed by VUSD, the virtual model is reporting 22.3% of students with 50% or more F’s, and the in-person, or classic, model, is at 19.1%.

“These slides have gotten a lot of attention and can be taken out of context,” said Nicole Allard, executive director of educational excellence and innovation. “It’s a progress report. It’s not part of their transcript. This is really a nationwide epidemic and every school district is talking about this data.”

Even though San Diego County has moved into the purple tier regarding COVID-19 restrictions, school districts already employing in-person models can remain with that path, according to district officials.

Allard said in-person learning is having a positive impact, adding it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this gap widen between classical and virtual. She said a large jump in the number of F’s is likely due to disengagement from students.

However, Allard said the district is working to get more granular data from each school to identify the demographics and students with the most need. She said the district will use resources to create a tiered action plan to re-engage their students.

Allard said intentional planning at each school site will be conducted and each school will continue this for each grading period.

“I think it’s all kids,” Trustee Martha Alvarado said about students struggling during the pandemic. “It’s just not how some people thrive. We need to set up some drop-in tutoring. It’s urgent. We have to get creative and look at Palomar or (California State University) San Marcos for volunteers to drop in.”

As for the virus, the district has recorded at least two dozen cases.

Craig Wiblemo, executive director of student support services, said in all but two tests, there is a strong suspicion those came from outside the district. Those two tests, though, haven’t been able to tie it back to schools.

He said the case rate is about 10 cases per 100,000 residents, but with 10,000 students in the district, VUSD has had about 23 cases in 23 days, which is in line with the county average.

According to the secretary of California’s Health and Human Services, gatherings in homes are the No. 1 reason for cases going up, Wiblemo said.

“The county has had a 46% increase in cases in last two weeks, but our area codes haven’t seen that,” Wiblemo said. “However, there have been no deaths and low hospitalizations for kids 0-19.”

If one student or teacher in a specific class tests positive, the entire class is quarantined for 14 days and must transition to virtual learning.